Upward of $3 billion versus $3 million.
The former is what it costs to bring a mass-produced vehicle to market; the latter, a small-batch car.
At least in the case of Local Motors. Its first vehicle, the Rally Fighter, was built in a run of 2,000 at 1 percent of what an average car would cost to develop.
The Chandler, Ariz.-based company recently established a second “microfactory” at 515 E. Stewart Ave. in downtown Las Vegas.
The store should open in late January or early February with a retail shop, cafe, co-working office and service bays, where customers can build out their rides.
Crowdsourced designs and hands-on building distinguish the company’s vehicles, which are tailored to meet local needs, hence the name.
“It’s really about allowing local community to choose what kind of vehicle they want,” Chief Strategy Officer Justin Fishkin said. “It’s all about niche need.”
For the Phoenix area, Local Motors created the Rally Fighter off-road racer. For the open-air enthusiast, Local Motors makes the Racer motorcycle and Cruiser enhanced bicycle, which can be powered by gasoline or electric. For Boston, they have plans for the Boston Bullet, a futuristic electric vehicle designed to navigate the city’s narrow streets, although it’s yet to be seen if that concept will be built.
Another electric vehicle is also in the works.
At $99,900, the Rally Fighter is out of reach for many, but Fishkin said future vehicles will be more affordable. The Racer costs $18,750 and the Cruiser costs $3,799.
Fishkin said the Cruiser makes sense for Las Vegas, although it will up to the city to decide what kind of vehicle it wants.
Designs are submitted online, where a community of designers, engineers, fabricators and enthusiasts can discuss and improve on concepts. The winning designer is paid a cash prize and collects 2 percent of sales royalties. Secondary collaborators split another 2 percent.
Vehicle purchasers participate in the build, partly for fun, partly for regulatory reasons that allow the vehicle to be registered as a home-build.
The factory avoids custom fabricating and instead uses auto parts that are already available. For example, the Rally Fighter is 90 percent built from other manufacturer’s parts, including Honda Accord lights and a Chevrolet Corvette engine.
“It’s like what P. Diddy did in hip-hop,” Fishkin said. “He took a lot of old songs and he sampled them, and remixed them, and came up from something totally new.”
Another perk to building small scale with limited custom parts: If a vehicle doesn’t succeed, the company can discontinue it.
Sustainability is central to Local Motors’ philosophy.
Part of building locally is the ability to use local fuels, such as locally produced electricity.
Their downtown location is a former rehabbed auto service center, with reclaimed wood and displays. The former oil-change garage is being built into a cafe, which will serve cold-drip coffee and food.
“We wanted to show you can use existing buildings for other uses without tearing it down,” Michele Abbate, Las Vegas retail operations manager, said.
In the co-working space, members will have 3-D printers and water jets at their disposal, perhaps 24/7.
“It will be like SYN Shop but with different machinery,” said food and beverage manager and community liaison Gina O’Connell, referring to another hackerspace downtown.
“We want to be a vehicle-creation wonderland,” Abbate added.
Local Motors plans to open another domestic location early this year, as well as an international location using “mobi-factories,” or containers with manufacturing capabilities, retail shop and charge stations.
In 10 years, the company hopes to have 100 locations worldwide.
Contact reporter Kristy Totten at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3809. Follow @kristy_tea on Twitter.